Martin County History

Establishment & Beginnings

Martin County was formed on August 21, 1876, from Bexar County and named for Wylie Martin, one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists. Martin County was attached to Mitchell County for administrative purposes for five months and then attached to Howard County until 1884, when the county was reduced to its present size and organized with Marienfeld (now Stanton) as the county seat.

The first settlement in what is now Martin County was Grelton (later known as Marienfeld), which was established in 1881 by John Konz and his family under the sponsorship of the Texas and Pacific Railway. Railroad promotion was a key element in attracting settlers to West Texas. "It is emphatically the country for the poor man," urged one railroad brochure. "No matter how poor a man may be, if he has health he may easily become the possessor of independent wealth in a few years." In support of such optimistic forecasts the railroad started a twenty-acre experimental farm at Grelton for wheat, barley, rye, and oats.

The region was pleasing in appearance and well watered by springs, including Mustang Pond, where United States Army officers had once observed Indians watering 1,000 mustangs. "This beautiful country," said one pioneer, "was just a lush garden with green plums, prairie chicken, and quail galore." In 1881 the Texas and Pacific line began service to its lands in the Martin County area, which it sold to settlers for $1.50 to two dollars per acre.

Immigration & Population

Immigration to the area intensified after Konz encouraged a group of Carmelite priests from Anderson County to move to Martin County to establish a monastery. The name of the original settlement, Grelton, was changed to Marienfeld (Field of Mary) by German settlers from Anderson County. Encouraged by Christian D. (Father Anastasius) Peters, immigrants also moved to Martin County directly from Germany. The first Catholic Mass in the county was celebrated on the site of the present county courthouse.


During the early 1880s a newspaper, the Marienfeld News, began to be published in the county, and in 1884 Martin County's first school was established. By 1890, when Marienfeld's name was changed to Stanton, the area had a much more settled character than it had only ten years earlier. In 1880 only twelve people lived in the county; by 1890 the population had risen to 262, and by 1900 332 people were living in Martin County.

By 1905 Stanton had become a major shipping point in the region; ranchers from a distant of 150 miles to the south drove herds there. In the early twentieth century Martin County prospered and received a new wave of settlers, as land promoters subdivided cattle range into farm sites.

Petroleum Production

Petroleum development was late in coming to Martin County. There was some drilling in the early 1920s, and a producing well was drilled in 1945, when the shallow Mabee field in Andrews County was extended into southwestern Martin County. The first commercial petroleum production occurred in 1950, when the Texas Company drilled over 13,000 feet into the northwest section of the county; more than 90,000 barrels of oil were produced in the county that year.

In 1951 three additional fields were located: Glass in the southwest, Breedlove in the northwest, and Stanton in the southwest. Petroleum production quickly became an important part of Martin County's economy. In 1956 615,000 barrels of oil were extracted from Martin County lands, and in 1960 1,392,000 barrels were pumped. In 1974, 11,833,000 barrels of crude were produced. Production decreased during the late 1970s and through the 1980s but nevertheless remained significant. In 1990, 7,884,000 barrels were produced, and in 2015 Martin County produced 39,610,542 ranking Martin County the fifth largest oil producer in the State.